Kia Optima hybrid driven
- All-new Mondeo rival
- On sale early 2012
- Prices from around £19,000
What is it? The Optima is Kia’ new Ford Mondeo rival, which goes on sale early next year. The car we’re testing here, however, is a hybrid version that won’t be sold in Britain. UK-spec Optimas will get the 1.7-litre diesel engine from the Hyundai i40.
What’s it like to drive? Our test consisted of 20 minutes driving around Frankfurt city centre during rush hour, so it’s important to stress that these are initial impressions.
The car’ hybrid drivetrain combines a 164bhp 2.4-litre petrol engine with a 40bhp electric motor. At low speeds, and for a limited distance, this allows the Kia to run on battery power alone. The Optima switches to the petrol engine as your speed increases. However, if you need to get a move on the revs soar quickly and the engine makes a lot of noise. Diesel versions sold in Britain won’t suffer from this problem.
The Optima’s steering feels rather heavy around the straight-ahead, but gets lighter as you turn the wheel, which gives an inconsistent and unnatural feel. It also makes it difficult to judge how much grip there is.
The ride felt fidgety at low speeds, too. We’ll have to wait to see how composed UK-spec Optimas are at speed.
What’s it like inside? The Optima’s cabin is similar to other new-generation Kias, which means it looks smart and is logically laid out. Quality is impressive, too, with soft-touch plastics on most areas of the dashboard.
There’s plenty of space for front and rear passengers, although the boot in our hybrid test car was compromised by the battery pack.
Should I buy one? It’s too early to say. The Optima certainly has the looks and quality to trouble the class leaders, but question marks remain over the way it drives and a lot will also depend on price.
Early indications suggest even the entry-level UK car will set you back £19,000, and if that’s the case it’ll certainly have its work cut out against the Ford Mondeo and VW Passat – as well as the cheaper Hyundai i40.
We’ll be driving European versions of the Optima in November, so we’ll be able to give you a definitive verdict then.
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